(PNS) More than 3,000 Presbyterians responded online to the call issued by the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) to discuss the identity and purpose of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The churchwide conversation urged people to gather in groups to dialogue about who and what the denomination is called to be and then to individually share their thoughts and feelings on an online form. COGA said it received 3,000-plus responses to the online form, reportedly the largest response to a study of its kind ever done by a mainline Protestant denomination.
“We are extremely grateful to those who invested the time and energy to share their feelings about the state of the PC(USA) and their hopes for the future,” said COGA Moderator Margaret Elliott. “People have spoken from their hearts and now we have material that will help inform the work of the 222nd General Assembly (2016) commissioners when they meet June 18–25 in Portland, Oregon.”
COGA’s invitation to “join the conversation” was issued last fall, and the online form for gathering thoughts and comments was available from October 23 to December 18, 2015. Some 18,000 pieces of data came in, which is now being analyzed by the staff of PC(USA) Research Services, COGA said.
Additionally, COGA contracted with John Brueggemann, professor of sociology and Quadracci Professor in Social Responsibility at Skidmore College, to examine the data independently and provide a report.
“The information gathered is being analyzed to assure that it is accessible and meaningful to General Assembly commissioners,” Elliott said. “Our prayer is that the themes that emerge will give the General Assembly the direction it needs to chart a way forward for the denomination.”
Once the full analysis of the data is complete, which is expected to be in late February, COGA will prepare a report to go to the assembly. That report will be included with other material going to the assembly and will be posted on the website for General Assembly (GA) business—PC-biz.
COGA also is working to ensure time is provided on the General Assembly docket for commissioners and advisory delegates to discuss the data, as well as other information being gathered across the denomination regarding PC(USA) purpose and identity. General Assembly Moderator Heath Rada currently is engaging in similar conversations throughout the church, along with other entities such as NEXT Church.
“COGA’s aim isn’t to reach a conclusion from the information and then present that to the assembly,” Elliott said. “But rather to gather what the church has said and provide it for the body we entrust with discerning the mind of Christ for the PC(USA).”
by Toya Richards, Office of the General Assembly